Carsten Carlberg out at University of Luxembourg

The University of Luxembourg has fired researcher Carsten Carlberg after concluding that his name was a drag on the institution.

Here’s an English  translation of an article about the firing, which many readers were kind enough to forward to us:

A senior academic at the university of Luxembourg has been fired and his career may be in tatters following a misconduct scandal.

Biochemist Carsten Carlberg was accused earlier this year of deception by co-writing and approving two articles containing invalid scientific results.

The articles, which were written with post-doc grad student Tatjana Degenhardt, in Finland, have since been retracted.

However, as senior author of the documents, earlier this year the university launched an investigation.

Mr Carlberg took on the post of professor at the University of Luxembourg in 2006 where he led a team in the field of biochemistry.

The university today released a press release confirming his dismissal, saying that rector Rolf Tarrach took the decision out of a desire to protect the reputation of the young institution’s science faculties.

We emailed Carlberg, who has been quite responsive about the retractions and the inquiry into his lab, but haven’t heard back. The last time we heard from him, however, he seemed resigned to the likelihood that U. Lux would cut him loose. Whether his career is indeed “in tatters,” as the article states, is an open question at this point. As far as we know, Carlberg’s position at the University of Eastern Finland is not in jeopardy.

18 thoughts on “Carsten Carlberg out at University of Luxembourg”

  1. Let me get this correct: the University of Luxembourg investigates Carlberg because he is last author of two retracted papers. Apparently they do not find anything on him in terms of misconduct. Yet they fire him anyway with a pusillanimous statement that they could have cooked up upfront?

    1. times are tough, people. being a luxembourg citizen, i can totally understand why they’ve fired him – reputation is key in this country.

  2. This marks a sad ending to an “affair” whose root causes remain shrouded in obscurity. The University of Luxembourg has never explained why Carsten Carlberg was being dismissed, and such information as has been made public has come from leaks to the press and comments on the Retraction Watch blog. I am not at all convinced that the reputation of has been enhanced by firing a faculty member without giving credible reasons for doing so. If they intend to continue recruiting top level researchers, it would be helpful if they could show a healthy respect for due process.

    1. well, thing is, they throw a lot of money at their researchers, and i guess that if these guys don’t cut it, they’re let go. many others are waiting and eager to take their place.

  3. Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
    I’m not suggesting Prof Carlberg is a modern day Mick Jagger, but there are striking parallels in terms of the British judicial system’s treatment of Mr. Jagger in 1967 and the University of Luxembourg’s approach to Prof. Carlberg in 2011; both have ended up looking foolish, unbalanced and insecure.
    Not the greatest advert to the international scientific community to re-locate to Luxembourg, no matter how many Euros are available for research

      1. I do not agree. Uni Lux was one of the few institutions which drew consequences from an affair like this. The majority of universities simply do not comment, do not fire, do not care. Actually, I think they could have been much more aggressive, e.g. by publishing the letter from external professors supporting Carlberg (I’d like to see that!) or the expert commission’s evaluation report. As it went, the damage to him is smaller than it could have been. Probably Uni Lux is aiming to return to science and not invest more resources into this matter which has become pointless for them. I respect that and I prefer it a lot to the no-comment-no-action policy many places seem to favor.

  4. There was an independent external committee, an internal committee…Hard to imagine that they finally made a decision just for fun or just to get rid of him. If Carlberg was the star of the University of Luxembourg, something should have happened that they dismiss him, in order to protect their reputation. Beside the University also the Luxembourgish research fond had doubts concerning the research of Carlberg. The local press pointed to financial, educational and scientific issues, the retracted publications were obviously just the starting point. Maybe they had certain reasons to fire him and simply do not publish them to protect him or close the case (after some content of the commission’s report has been made public by a leak)? If this way of proceeding is good for the University or its members/academic staff is another question. But also Carlberg does not reply to Retraction Watch anymore, even if he was “Scientifically “cool” about the case”…He should know the reasons why they dismissed him, but this time he does not want to share his point of view. If the act was disproportional – who knows. But if the published reproaches are true – what would be an appropriate handling? To draw the curtain over it and hope that someone is changing his habits? Perhaps Luxembourg was one of the rare universities acting fast and consequent? Lets see if something is happening in Finland.

    1. I fully support your comments WM. This is the only post is this section that looks to facts. Everybody here reacts emotionally, but who really know the reality of the case if it is not the first ones concerned? In this instance, Carlberg and UNI management are the only concerned.
      If you followed the local press since the beginning, a lot of things were said and published that are apparently already forgotten by the vast majority. Very strong and severe statements were done – in his/her post, WM recall us some of them. And here again I follow WM: maybe it would not be good at all for Carlberg if all the details were made public. My feeling is that UNI did not choose the easiest way to solve the issue. It is, to my opinion, a sign of maturity and it shows a high sense of responsibilities. It is certainly not a sign of weakness!! Remember, if you choose to be under the projectors (and earn the money that goes along), your behavior must be absolutely IRREPROACHABLE!! Else? …well, sometime sh*t happens.
      As WM said, let’s see if Finland will took lesson from what happened there or if they will turn their eyes and look in another direction.

  5. I agree with WM and piwi. The contents of the leaks that have become public seems to suggest that there has been a wider hearing among researchers in Luxemburg and, considering the nature of the event, the information may have been given as confidential, which could explain why University of Luxemburg is not revealing the basis for their decision in more details. However, there is clearly more behind this case than events leading to retractions of the papers.

  6. Sorry, WM, piwi and Simon, I’m confused. Following internal and external investigation it is clear that that Prof. Carlberg has not committed any fraud. The only clear evidence is that the student (TD) committed scientific misconduct and that as soon as this came to light Prof Carlberg did everything to highlight, investigate and clarify what and when had occurred. That’s what i understand from reading this thread from the beginning. Do you disagree? If you do, what is your evidence? Why would U. Lux not release all the findings? If Prof. Carlberg is scientific crook, why would U. Lux not release the key findings of the external report that show this? WM – if you fire someone, why then protect him?!
    Call me cynical, but I assume they will not release the findings because they do not support the case for dismissal. So, who knows what U. Lux motives were? To me i don’t see maturity and responsibility but a relatively recently appointed faculty, from outside of Luxembourg, being hung out to dry, followed up by continuing innuendo.
    But maybe I’m confused?

  7. There is certain progress on the case now in Finland. Today Iltalehti (a major yellow paper in Finland) reported on the case. The academic rector of the University of Eastern Finland commented that the possible misconduct is under examination and decision on the continuation of Prof. Carlberg’s post in Kuopio will be decided most likely in August. The doctoral thesis of Tatjana Degenhardt has been retracted by the University.

  8. I have seen the report from the external review board, and it states that based on the investigation performed by the external board, Prof. Carlberg has not taken part in any misconduct. The report also does not suggest any disciplinary or other action towards Prof. Carlberg, rather it just clears him from any wrongdoing.

  9. Also it might be of interest to you to hear what has been happening at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) regarding this case. The main question at UEF has not really been what to do with prof. Carlberg, but rather what to do with Tatjana Degenhardt and more specifically, with her thesis, as she used two of the retracted publications as part of her PhD thesis (the thesis consisted of 5 publications and introductionary/literature review part).

    Therefore UEF nominated “ethical research committee” to look in to this, and after looking into the whole affair and hearing Degenhardt, the committee decided to recommend that the PhD thesis would be re-evaluated. Couple of weeks ago, based on this recommendation the board of Faculty of Science and Forestry decided that with the removal of the two publications, the resulting work does not fill the requirements for a PhD thesis, and therefore decided to retract the thesis, possibly (likely?) resulting in cancellation of her PhD degree as well.

    During the hearing (performed through e-mail), Degenhardt admitted manipulating the data and stated that prof. Carlberg did not have anything to do with the manipulations. As far as I am aware, prof. Carlberg is not under investigation at the UEF and there hasn’t been any question about his integrity. I believe his current position is a 50% professorship until the end of 2013, when his position returns to full-time professorship.

    1. “I believe his current position is a 50% professorship until the end of 2013, when his position returns to full-time professorship.”

      Wow! In consideration of the fact that he might have had a 100% affiliation in Luxembourg in parallel: does Carlberg has a double? How do these universities organize that? Should be complicated in terms of dedicated research means, holiday, travel budget,… Maybe he is still under investigation in Finland? Looks like. As far as I read – we will probably know more end of August.

  10. Pondera – no, I don’t think you are confused. You just have another point of view and this is ok. I do not know which evidence/information/sources/indications (call it as you want) U. Lux has. Thus, at least I cannot say, that it is clear that he did not commit any fraud either I can claim the contrary. But the public discussions in the local press as well as here in RW (also covering plausible postings directed to older times or other publications) suggest something different. Concerning the internal commission, the only thing I see is that this committee did not prevent his final dismissal. I am not aware if they clearly claimed that Carlberg did not commit any fraud, this information was never published. But maybe you know more? What would you call an evidence in such a case (in general)? A written document with a request to clean datasets from unfavorable data points? I would expect this kind of document you will never find, except someone was as stupid as the housebreaker who sheds his ID card. I would assume that this kind of “science”-investigations are rather based on indications, interviews and plausibility. Why to protect someone who has been fired? Maybe they have no personal interest that Carlberg is out-of-work for the rest of his life. But as I said, maybe they just want to close the case. If findings do not support a dismissal, an employee can take court action.

  11. The University is full of intrigues and sometimes it is a hell to work there because of those fights and Gigantic EGOS of Professors… Many often are not working there but just playing intrigues all the time, fighting with each other ..and pretending to be a Godfathers…The high salary system at UNI is stimulating those developments especially it creates problems with lower paid unskilled people coming from remote provinces of neighbors … It seems that is common to cut people contracts without explanations in this atmosphere …..

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